Ghent – Exploring street art
Ghent (Belgium) is a very creative Belgian city with a lot of street art and graffiti. It is also a city where culture is lurking on every corner. There are two art schools, the annual Gentse Feesten, Vooruit venue and HeyHey Apps is a Ghent creation, to name a few. Ghent is also territory of renowned artists such as ROA and Bue the Warrior. Especially the latter is the guy who sort of owns the city, and who has his connections and knows the walls in town. The result is a lot of colourful mural artworks spread around town. All of these artworks and more by tons of different artists have now been put on a map; the Concrete Canvas Tour map.
In May 2014 Street Art Belgium (with a HQ in Ghent) launched the Concrete Canvas Tour. It is a tour that you can walk (7,5 km) or cycle (14,5 km) yourself and it will take you to over 50 locations. ‘It is one of my interns (Karolien Kums) who stumbled upon the fact that although Ghent is a very creative town full of youngsters, the touristic offering wasn’t really relevant,’ so tells Bjørn van Poucke from Street Art Belgium. ‘Before the Concrete Canvas Tour the city council promoted only a limited amount of cultural activities that target the younger generations. We came up with the idea to make a free map which guides the tourists through all the interesting artworks that came from the street art and graffiti scene in our city.’ The idea was pitched to the city council and they were very interested in Street Art Belgium’s concept. The result is the Concrete Canvas Tour map that you can grab for free from Ghent’s information centre. Van Poucke explains that the city and its habitants are very open to legal artworks in their streets. The city of Ghent was for them a perfect partner to realize this map with. ‘They opened their network to us in order to find the right partners regarding the production and promotion of the idea. Hopefully this inspires other city councils to work with us in future.’
The artworks are widely spread around town. I would suggest you to hire a bike for maximum viewing. I did most of the tour by foot and therefore didn’t see everything. The tour takes along beautiful mural artworks by the likes of Bue the Warrior, Chase, golden olden ROA’s, Steve Locatelli and Smates. Almost all of the artists that have left their art in town are from Belgium. There are a few exceptions and these exceptions have mostly once been invited by Bue to come and paint in his town. Not only will you see mural artworks, but also graffiti jam streets & walls. With a bit of luck you might see an artist at work with his spraycans. The peeps at Street Art Belgium explored every street and every corner in Ghent before the official printing of the map. Van Poucke: ‘We started by pinpointing every artwork in the public space in Ghent (over 250 artworks) on a digital map and then connecting those into several routes. Afterwards we extensively walked and biked every possible route option before narrowing down into two routes: one for walking and one for biking.’ What I like most about following the map is that you never know what kind of artwork you will get to see. The map only shows which artist(s) you will see art of. An artist description is at the back of the map. Not only will you see a lot of great street art and graffiti, but also you get to explore Ghent in a different way and go to areas you would probably never visit.
If you prefer to go on a guided tour and hear inside stories about the artists and artworks, Street Art Belgium also run guided tours on request. Van Poucke: ‘Yes, we do that from time to time for companies, who are looking for a nice way to end a teambuilding or for touristic groups who are interested in spending a bit of time in the creative world of our artists.’ Currently there are plans for more Concrete Canvas Tour maps in other Belgian cities. So you can perhaps soon explore the street art in Brussels and Antwerp. ‘More news will follow soon. If any cities read this and want to work with us, feel free to reach out to us via our website.’
Article & photos by Nicole Blommers.